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Type of Anxiety Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that patients develop following an encounter with a traumatic experience. It is usually associated with the life-threatening experiences in which the patient had narrowly survived. This disorder is quite prevalent in genocidal scenes, as people get to witness their loved ones hacked to death. Even if such people eventually survive the ordeal, the sight of their relatives’ death hardly leaves them, and they end up experiencing severe stress as a result (Carlson, 2007). People who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder usually tend to avoid events or places that are closely associated with the scenes where they were affected. In case the incident occurs in a group of people, sufferers may become agoraphobic to the extent that they stay indoors. This disorder can completely change one’s life, especially the social aspect, in a manner that makes it impossible for them to live normal lives. Although the disorder has a long-standing history in the human life, it does not yet have formal criteria for diagnosis and classification. This has made it difficult to distinguish the disease from other disorders that affect people’s mental status. For example, depression presents itself with almost similar symptoms as post-traumatic stress illnesses and may be a source of diagnostic confusion. In fact, the disorder was given different names based on the geographical location as well as the affected populations. During the American Civil War, the disorder was quite prevalent among war survivors, and people began to associate it with the fatigue from combat. They decided to call it a combat fatigue and even tried to look for therapeutic intervention, considering that it appeared to last longer than normal fatigue. Survivors from the World War II who showed similar symptoms were said to have suffered from a “gross stress syndrome” and the Vietnamese solders returning from the Vietnam War were said to have suffered from a “post-Vietnam Syndrome”. These are only a few examples that show how the disorder was perceived differently, depending on the time and place where it became prevalent (Rothschild, 2000).


The disorder can be classified as either simple or complex depending on the severity of its symptoms. The simple form of the disorder is associated with an episode of ugly scenes that appears to have less mental effects on the patients. On the other hand, complex post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with a long-lasting exposure to seriously traumatizing scenes. They tend to have longer effects on humans, and the effects could lead to total brain damage or other physical illnesses like severe headache. In the United States, the prevalent cause of the disease is highest among war veterans who survived ugly scenes of war. In addition, cases of rape also appear to be a major cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, African Americans have proven to have a higher risk of suffering the disorder, possibly due to their violent lifestyles (Satcher, 1999). According to the current statistics, prevalence of the disorder is lowest among Caucasians and Hispanics. The high prevalence among most minority groups has been attributed to the lack of social support in case one encounters such disturbing scenes. The effects of racism are also considered to be a major cause of the disease, because racism has been associated with molestation and murder in the United States. As a result, the victims tend to blame themselves for their conditions, a situation that exacerbates their stressful condition. According to literature, this was particularly prevalent among military populations, because they did not seem to have the same fate in case they were faced with traumatizing situations. While their colleagues from majority tribes would get a lot of support from their families as well as governmental agencies, casualties in minority tribes did not seem to get the same attention. This significantly hampered their healing process causing to suffer for a much longer time and become more affected. However, this has since changed with the adoption of social tolerance in the United States. During the 2001 terror attacks, health institutions in the United States witnessed a resurgence of the disorder among survivors of the terror attack. However, counseling centers were quickly set up to help them cope with their conditions (Yehuda, 2001).

It is not a guarantee that whoever experiences traumatizing situations will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or even show physical signs of the disease. According to research, trauma causes people to lose a part of their hippocampus, the part of the brain that mediates long-term memory. As a result, they forget the incidents so quickly that they don’t get stressed for a long time. If trauma causes reduction in the size of hippocampus among sufferers, then they are less likely to suffer from the stress disorder as they lose memory of the traumatizing situations. This medical reality is important in understanding the effects and the extent of presentation of the disorder. It is basically the reason why persons exposed to the same trauma experience different severity of the disease. However, there is a general agreement that survivors of trauma are likely to become cigarette smokers, alcoholics, or even marijuana users. This seems to disappear if the disorder is properly treated, and patients are taken through thorough counseling. When the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to the development of far-reaching effects, including affecting one’s relationship with the family or general mental function. Among women, under-treatment has been associated with a disruption of reproductive cycle and poor general health that can give room for opportunistic infections (Maxmen, 1995). There is a variety of risk factors that significantly predispose people to the severe effects of the disease. However, all of them border on the frequency and severity of exposure that patients suffer. Other risk factors that are deemed important include young age, female gender, as well as problems with learning abilities. In young people, the disorder may have severe effects, because they have less experience in life and may be unable to cope up with the trauma. As for women, trauma causes them to suffer hormonal imbalance and this eventually leads to low cortisol levels in blood. As a result, they suffer longer, because cortisol has a role in relieving stress. So far, anti-depression drugs are used in management of this stress disorder, because they increase the activity of specific chemicals in the body (Satcher, 2000).

Case Study

Ms Jane was a victim of the September 11 attack on the United States of America. She was with her family at the time of the bomb blast. Her husband had just arrived with their two little kids from Boston, and passed by her workplace to see her before they could go home. Later on, she got them out of the office into one of the nearby restaurants. That was when the terrorists struck the World Trade Centre. The families then flee into a corner of the restaurant as everyone was still amazed at the unfortunate turn of events. It was much later when people started getting out, running for their dear lives. In this confusion, she was left behind as her husband ran with the children. Before they could realize that she had remained behind, she saw a dangerous smoke burning right at the point where they had been. The fire was burning so fast and furiously. She had to flee backwards from where they had left. It was not an easy race against time. Some people simply could not run away and the fire soon caught up with them. She watched several people consumed in the fire, literally charring. She could not imagine what had happened to her family, but she was certain it was something similar. In fact, it was by sheer lack that she did survive the incident. Soon enough, the rescue police arrived and helped her together with several others escape from the scene. This is how Mrs. Jane managed to survived the dangerous incident. However, the thought of her beloved family started to haunt her. She had promised the little one that she would take her out over the weekend to play basketball. He was so fond of it that everyone had come to associate her with the sport. At only 10, he played as good as his father did. These memories caused her a lot of stress that was not ending soon. She thought that she had suffered a brain damage during the incident, and later went to see her doctor again.

She felt that she could not see any other doctor, and explain to him or her about her mental condition. It was only her family doctor who could know what she felt. And so, in a day or so, she went to his office and booked an appointment. It happened that he did not have scheduled meetings with patients on that day and accepted to see her. The doctor realized that something was wrong with her from the onset. She looked socially withdrawn and mentally disturbed. The doctor had known her to be a jovial woman who hardly frowned unless she was really disappointed. When the doctor started to examine her, he could notice that she was not telling him the truth. For instance, she maintained that she slept quite well at night although it was evident in her eyes that she had not had enough sleep in several weeks. She was also reluctant to disclose exactly where she stayed at the moment. It later appeared that she had abandoned her house and was now stating in one lodge after the other. It was at this point that her doctor decided she had to see a counselor and only come back to her after she was stable. This was a typical case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The conventional treatment of the disorder involves a combination of psychotherapy and chemotherapy. For instance, a counselor or a close family member can be tasked with the responsibility of coaching the patient on how to cope with the disease. This will include openly discussing the events that led to the tragic event, the actual symptoms as well as how the patient’s general perception. This will act as an assurance that the symptoms are normal and that they will soon disappear if properly medicated. So far, the most useful medications for post-traumatic stress disorder include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like fluoxetine and tricyclic anti-depresants like imipramine. Other new medications are monoamine oxidase inhibitors.  


In conclusion, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that patients develop following an encounter with a traumatic experience. The disorder can be classified as either simple or complex depending on the severity of its symptoms. The simple form of the disorder is associated with an episode of ugly scenes that appears to have less mental effects on the patients while complex post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with a long-lasting exposure to seriously traumatizing scenes. However, both types respond to a combination of chemotherapy and psychotherapy. 

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